Brickworld 2017 has come and gone, and I’m almost caught up on all my sleep from the event. If you’ve never been to it, Brickworld is one of the largest, and one of the premier LEGO® fan events in North America. It draws some of the best builders in the country, and even a few from over seas. It is also the largest gathering of LEGO train fans, and train clubs in the US. If you love LEGO trains, you’ll be in good company at Brickworld.
The Train Layouts
Every year at Brickworld, some truly awesome LEGO train layouts can be seen. Some of the top train clubs in the US clubs come as far as Pennsylvania and Texas to show their trains on huge layouts packed with details. Here are some of the notable layouts from this year.
PennLUG and Texas Brick Railroad
PennLUG is my home LUG, and for the fourth year we joined forces with Texas Brick RR for a joint train layout at Brickworld. And this year we had an added guest, Jason Steinhurst from MichLUG. PennLUG brought our roundhouse and massive rail yard, while Texas brought the farm, bridges and town. Jason brought his excellent locomotives and rolling stock. While our clubs each have our own unique layout style, we still mesh really well thanks to following the same track and ballast standard, relative scale, and desire for massive amounts of detail.
Northern Illinois LEGO Train Club
Brickworld is NILTC‘s home LEGO convention, so naturally they show up with a big presence, and usually the biggest layout at the show. But they have more than size in there arsenal, they also have a some great builders from a diverse range styles. You want tall sky scrapers? You can find them here. You want modern cities? NILTC has them. An awesome recreation of the town from the movie Blazing Saddles? Yeah, it’s here. Visions of future urban transport and architecture? Sure. A military tank larger than your average home? Yes, NILTC had that too. And all really well done.
Ohio Kentucky Indiana LUG
OKILUG is one of the newer clubs to Brickworld, but they’re not short on great building talent.
OKILUG had some excellent trains and rail yard, a nice airport section, and a large city area with their layout this year.
Michael Gale’s MILS Train Layout
Michael Gale is one of the best LEGO train modelers today. And he is also a one man layout force to be contended with. His eye for detail, keen sense of scale, and clever use of lighting and electronics are all brilliant. This year Michael came with his MILS based LEGO train modules, and they looked fantastic. Taking advantage of the system, Michael was able to model subtle variation in terrain, brick built roads and crossings, that bring a very lifelike feel to a otherwise simple train layout.
Some fancy landscaped curves were not all Michael had though. He has also been building on the MILS standard to create a Japanese themed city layout. His use of MILS and module style building was really inspiring to see in person.
Mr. Gale is also one half of the team behind the forthcoming PFx Brick. And he had one spectacular demo model at the show. His amazing model of a Japanese Shinkansen 700 train. Lights, sound, and scale perfect speed made this beautiful model of of the highlights at the event when running.
Brick world Charity Auction
Every year at Brickworld the Esther Walner Memorial Charity Fundraiser is held. This auction of LEGO collectibles raises money for several charities. This year Brick Model Railroader donated a special edition of our Pullman PS-1 Box Car. This was not the standard premium instructions we are selling in our shop. This was a full kit, every part needed to build the BMR version of the car, including decals. The lucky winner of this set was Sal Ciofani, with the kit bringing in $425 for the charity auction.
Among the many awards voted on by Brickworld attendees every year, there is one coveted by train fans the most: the Brickworld Best Train award. Many of the hobbies most distinguished builders have won this award. This year was one of the finest crop of nominees ever seen. All were very excellent models, and some of the best our hobby has to offer. Here are the nominees, and of course, the winner.
Anthony Sava’s Duluth Missabe & Iron Range “Yellowstone”
Anthony’s DM&IR “Yellowstone” type locomotive is an impressive beast. Modeled in his signature style, the 2-8-8-4 steam locomotive has great lines, and imposing size. The graphics on the tender, printed by Terry Akuna, really add style to this great model.
Union Pacific Heritage MoPac SD70 ACe by Andy Mollmann
Andy’s Missouri Pacific heritage diesel is about as strikingly beautiful as a modern diesel can be. And with an impressive electronics package under the hood, it represented the diesel locomotive well with it’s Best Train nomination.
Union Pacific “Big Boy” by Nathan Flood
It should be no surprise that Nate Flood, one of the builders nominated for Brickworld Master this year, would also have one of his train builds nominated for Best Train. And that train was Nate’s model of the legendary Union Pacific “Big Boy”. Many have tried to model the Big Boy in LEGO, however Nathan’s take is one of best seen in a while.
Baldwin 2-6-2 “George Teat” by Rob Hendrix
Rob “The Brick Modder” Hendrix brought one the smallest nominee for Best Train this year. But don’t let it’s size fool you. This little Baldwin 2-6-2 has some impressive features, losing Best Train by reportedly only 6 votes. It has great detail for sure, and some lovely pin striping too. But this locomotive also has lights, and best of all sound. It’s one of those locomotives you need to see operating in person to get a sense of how neat it is.
Best Train, Brickworld 2017, “The Blue Comet” by Cale Leiphart
I was honored to receive the Brickworld Best Train award this year for my model of the Central Railroad of New Jersey’s famed “Blue Comet” This train has been on my bucket list for some time, and this year I felt was the right time to build it. Five moths of gathering parts, building, and detailing. Plus probably hundreds of hours research, scouring every train book, website, and historical group with any info on the train. The Comet has been one of the most challenging, and rewarding trains I’ve built. I will be doing a full article on this train in the future.
In Memory of Robin Werner
Last year the LEGO train community lost one of it long time brothers, Robin Werner. Robin was the driving force behind GFLUG and it’s train layouts. He was one of the old guard AFOLs, but always welcoming of new hobbyists. Robin and the GFLUG train layouts were a fixture of train shows and conventions throughout the southeast US. He was a friend to and beloved by many of his LEGO train peers.
At Brickworld Robin was a perennially welcome guest on the PennLUG/Texas Brick RR train layouts. He was a good friend who would enjoy every opportunity to play on our train layouts when he did not have his own at the show. And he would never hesitate to return the favor to any of us. When we needed a space to do a little train running, Robin offered the GFLUG layout, as a home away from home.
This year was the first Brickworld since Robin’s passing. And though many of us missed seeing his face, he was still there with us in spirit.
James Burrows of GFLUG created a special locomotive, in Robin’s own colors and brought it around to the various train layouts at the convention to run. It was an honor having Robin’s Locomotive run the PennLUG/TBRR layout.
See you at Brickworld next year.
Brickworld 2017 was an awesome event. It was filled with highs and lows, but as always, it the people who make the event something special. It’s a reunion for old friends, a chance to make new ones, and a show case for some of the most amazing LEGO models you can imagine. It’s an event that can leave you exhausted from all activity, but also inspired to build as soon as you get home. And it’s one of the best gatherings of train fans anywhere. If you have the means come out to Chicago next June and play with trains. We would love to see you there.